Briefs: The Second Coming
The Brisbane Powerhouse
21nd -26th of May 2013
Reviewed by Guy Frawley
Wednesday night saw the premiere of the new show from the Briefs boys crash tackle the audience of the Powerhouse in a circus infused explosion of vaudeville, burlesque and debauchery. Final shows tonight and tomorrow.
Briefs: The Second Coming, a collaborative effort from the ‘The all-male, all vaudeville, all trash brat pack’ is a testosterone and glitter drenched extravaganza that grabs you by the balls and leaves you cheering for more.
Fez Faanana served as our host for the evening, strutting onto the stage in a dress to put Tina Turner to shame, and owning every moment of the spotlight with his fierce energy. Describing his character in a previous interview as the circus child of the strong man and the bearded lady, I’m wondering if he couldn’t have perhaps been the love child of Missy Elliot and Hedwig (of the Angry Inch fame). Transitioning from performing magic tricks to puppetry to modern dance to drag without missing a beat Faanana proves to be an incredibly diverse and talented performer.
Crowned the ‘King of Burlesque’ by Dita Von Teese in 2011, Mark Winmill is one of the leading Australian ‘boylesque’ performers and it’s not hard to see why. His second act solo deserves special note. Opening in the feathered carnival costume used for the marketing material Winmill dances like he’s channelling the wild soul of Josephine Baker, his dance half man half animal and all sexual energy. But it’s when he finishes, reclining in a giant fountained bird bath that the real show begins. I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he flew above us, playfully paddling in the birdbath at times and splashing flourishes of water across the audience whilst performing daring acts from a hanging trapeze.
Faanana and Winmill are the original Briefs boys who have been working on the group for the last five years and they are joined on stage by the more recent members Louis Biggs, Ben Lewis, Tom Flanagan and Dallas Dellaforce. One of my favourite aspects of this show was watching the spotlight move from player to player as each had the chance to take centre stage with their own special talents. No one individual served as director with the show better described as a creative cooperative and I for one loved this aspect. Each scene carried its own distinct personality and in the style of classical vaudeville this is a real variety show.
There were several moments throughout though that needed to be polished further. It’s obvious there’s such an incredible level of talent on the stage and it was a shame to see the guys falling back on a bashful, knowing smile to the audience when something wasn’t pulled out exactly as hoped. I’m sure that in a performance of this nature there is always going to be a certain level of human error (and plain physics), but especially in the dance numbers the entire performance would have gained from a more precise level of execution.
Linking the scenes together was an under developed/unexplained Igor type character (played by Flanagan) creeping through the audience with a lamp. The opening scene at first made me wonder if this was supposed to be some type of Twilight Zone meets Barbarella style loose back story but this was never revisited. The Igor segue shtick began to grow thin towards the end of the first act, I can see why it may have seemed a good idea to begin with but I’m surprised it wasn’t dropped during workshopping. Towards the end of the 2nd act this weakness was even openly acknowledged by a seemingly exasperated Flanagan. I’m sure this time was vital to the preparation of the rest of the cast and thus the flow of the show but surely there could have been a more creative and cohesive transitioning tool? Faanana mentioned that Wednesday’s premier was the result of 5 insane weeks of workshopping and preparation and I’d be curious to see which elements will end up being revised, tightened or removed entirely after this week’s first full run on a live audience.
Lewis milked his boyish goodlooks and beautiful body for everything it was worth. My tip to you all if you go to see this show, buy up those raffle tickets like there’s no tomorrow. In the past the prize had been a meat tray…a similar concept still exists, they’ve just added their own little lime and salt crusted twist.
The Brisbane based DJ Busty Beatz blew the roof off the Powerhouse with her fabulous soundtrack. From the first opening notes to the closing disco soaked moments I enjoyed every minute of her musical direction and hope I hear more theatrical collaborations from this very talented woman. If you’re reading this please do me a favour and how about posting the track list as a spotify playlist? God knows I’m trying to remember as many numbers as I can to play at my next party.
The costumes, a collaboration between designer Nathalie Ryner and the multi-talented Dellaforce, deserve special mention here. Everything from the smallest, diamante encrusted leather cock sock (Merkin? I’m at a loss as to what one should actually be called) to Winmill’s breathtaking feathered costume showed the deft touch of two very talented designers. Throughout Dellaforce’s costumes were especially memorable, none more so than the dog show scene where she looked ready to strut onto the pages of a David LaChapelle spread in Vogue.
Equal parts piss take and homage it’s clear how much love and respect these guys have for the vaudeville and burlesque genres. They’ve been to mix influences and cultural references into a giant cocktail shaker and create something delightful. Not an easy job when these references are as far flung as Josephine Baker, Gypsy Lee Rose, Two Girls One Cup, George Michael, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, school yard games, the Follies Bergere…the list could go on and on.
Biggs and Flanagan pull off some ass-clenchingly shocking feats of acrobatics, leaving you in awe of what they’ve been able to train their bodies to do. Special mention to Flanagan’s aerial cocktail making skills and Biggs’ mastery of the ropes and the human yoyo.
If you can still manage to get your hands on some tickets for the remaining four performances of Briefs: The Second Coming gather your friends, ensure you bring refreshments with you from Bar Alto and strap yourself into this hot mess of a roller coaster ride. If the audience response is anything to go by you’re going to have a rollicking good time!